As we are all well aware, there are governments and scientist all over the world who are battling away trying to find out alternatives to coal and oil for energy production. The result is that there are many different products on the market including solar energy, wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps and biodiesel on the market.
However, one of the more "interesting" ones to come to the fore is chicken waste. If you are a gardener you'll probably have used chicken waste as a fertilizer. Or at least, you will have seen it available for sale as a fertilizer. But it appears that chicken poop can also be used for heating our homes.
A process known as pyrolysis heats the droppings up to a very high heat in order to produce three separate products. These are oil for heating, a slow-release fertilizer and also gas that could one day be utilized for powering the machine that carries out the pyrolysis process.
Frequently, environmental groups have pushed for energy to be created from waste products such as this but have faces opposition because of harmful emissions that have been released into the atmosphere. Opponents of the idea also argue that chicken waste is being sold as fertilizer at very good prices and it's probably more cost-effective if it is used as fertilizer rather than for heating.
There have already been power plants set up to use waste created by the logging and poultry industry however the problem is that they are very expensive to setup and government funding would be required to pay for the $200 million plant. However a plant like that would provide enough electric power for 40,000 homes.
Some people feel that the chicken poop for fuel idea is simply a waste of time because there are better alternatives such as solar and wind that require a lot more development.
Of course, it's so difficult to know what the best option is for our energy needs. It's important that all avenues are explored but it's also important to be realistic about how far chicken poop can go when it comes to producing energy. There are only so many chickens in the world and there simply might not be enough poop to cater to demands.
Many people who are looking to alternatives to gas and electricity for their heat sources are thinking about either wooden pellets or corn stoves. The problem is trying to decide which one to buy because they both have their advantages and disadvantages.
First off you need to contact suppliers or pellets and corn in your area. If for instance, corn isn't easily available but wood pellets are then you should buy a furnace that uses wood pellets. However if you live somewhere that both wood pellets and corn is very easily available then the choice is really yours. There are actually stoves on the market that allow you to burn both types of fuel so have a look at buying one of those.
Then there is the issue of storage. With wood you won't have a problem with rodents however mice of course really love corn so you need to make sure you keep it stored correctly. If you spill any of the corn then it's imperative that you clear it up because you don't want to end up with a rodent problem!
Both types of stoves also require electricity to power the fans and also the feeding system. If you find yourself with a power cut your stove won't work. Unless of course you have some sort of back-up power supply.
You'll also need to clean out the stoves every week because ash will build up. Also, every year it's advisable to have the stove inspected and also cleaned.
With both types of stove you have a hopper that does all the work for you in terms of adding the quantity of pellets and corn into the stove. This is a real luxury if you are used to burning wooden logs where you need to keep checking the stove all the time to make sure you aren't running low. Also, with a corn or pellet stove you can hae it running all night too which is great if there is a really cold winter and you are worried about water pipes freezing.
In many parts of the world corn is actually stock piled due to government grants and such like. So using corn is a great way to use that up and also corn grows very fast unlike trees. When buying corn make sure you buy a good quality grade because this will burn cleanly and hot. Corn that is sold as animal feed is excellent.
For those of you who are interested in reducing your heating bills or want to help reduce your carbon footprint you'll probably want to look at buying a wood burning stove. There are many different types of wood that you can burn and one method that people are using is to turn sawdust in briquettes.
Wood of course, is a natural product and is renewable. There's also quite a lot of wastage once the wood has been processed into different products. When you take sawdust and compact it really tightly into the shape of a brick, you will find that it's a great source of heat and on par with coal. Due to the density of the sawdust brick, you will find that this increases the calorific value and it actually ends up being more than regular firewood. So if you are using wood or coal in a solid-fuel stove you can also have the choice of using sawdust briquettes.
For making these briquettes yourself you can very cheaply and easily make your own. There are special presses that you can buy from a number of outlets including on eBay for surprisingly little money (approx $20). Not only can you use these presses for sawdust, you can also use paper, cardboard, wrapping paper and wood chips.
Of course, your press will come with instructions but basically you soak the wood or paper in water for several hours, fill the press with the material and the close the handles. Remove the brick from the press and allow to dry. Each brick should then burn for about 2 hours and the added bonus is that no fire lighters are required.
It's a fantastic way of recycling and heating your home at the same time. Although recycled paper is considered to be environmentally friendly, the process of doing this actually uses a lot of chemicals so it's quite debatable as to whether it's really good for the environment. Whereas with turning waste sawdust, wood chippings and paper into briquettes you're not using any chemicals at all. So it truly is environmentally friendly.
Obtaining the materials for this is very easy and will probably cost you nothing at all. Have a word with your local timber merchant or municipal dump and you might be able to get your materials for nothing at all.
Every day it seems you turn on the TV or open a newspaper and there will some feature about the environment, climate change, carbon footprints and all these kinds of things. We all know about traditional "green" energy sources such as solar power and wind power but all the time we are learning of new developments.
One of the more recent developments on the environmental energy front is biofuel made from algae. Basically how it works is that the algae captures carbon dioxide and sunlight and converts it into oxygen and biomass by way of photosynthesis. At the moment it's still pretty costly compared to traditional fuels, however there has been a lot of investment in this area and it could be that algae biofuel because more widespread in future.
Unlike other crops used for biofuel such as corn and soy. The algae doesn't actually have to be cultivated on land. Of course, we know how land is at such a premium these days for both housing and agriculture. So having the ability to produce algae elsewhere is fantastic
However, as with most things relating to new eco developments, algae as a source of biofuel is not without it's problems. A research team from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville looked at many different types of biofuel made from corn, canola and switchgrass and discovered that algae has a larger carbon footprint.
All is not lost however. If the algae is produced next to an area where there is a lot of carbon dioxide, the footprint will be greatly reduced. So basically, the algae takes the nutrients by recycling the carbon dioxide rather than requiring virgin nutrients.
The algae can also be grown in waste water and sewage which is great considering we flush so many of the "nutrients" that algae loves down the toilet. We still have a lot to learn about algae and the best ways of farming it for biofuel purposes but with continued investment there's still a lot of hope.